North Texas Daily

A fresh start for North Texas Ice Hockey

A fresh start for North Texas Ice Hockey

A fresh start for North Texas Ice Hockey
September 05
11:00 2019

The UNT hockey team is coming off a season that saw short benches, long shifts and a negative goals-against average. The team finished the 2018 season at 1-21 with a goal margin of – 14.18.

In this upcoming season, they’ll be looking to completely change that narrative.  Alongside a new head coach, they’ve added depth throughout the roster, which was the previous issue that resulted in a high number of goals against last season, according to Kevin Ely, team vice president and defenseman.

“The big thing last year was just numbers,” Ely said.  “We only had eight or nine guys last season and this year we had 30 guys show up at tryouts. Now that we have that on our side, it’s going to be a completely different season.”

The team relied heavily on offensive production from forward Chase Deacon, who lead the team with 15 goals and 10 assists.  The added depth is expected to lift the weight of scoring expectation off of Deacon and allow for a more free-flowing, spread out style of play.

“It’s going to be fun to have some other guys to create offensive with,” Deacon said.  “You know, wheel and deal, maybe put some more pucks in.  It was tough on everyone last year cause when you’re getting outscored like that it’s tough.”

Expectations for the year have continued to rise as the new players begin to build chemistry with the old.

“When tryouts were happening, we were getting pumped up for the year, ready to roll,” Deacon said.  “It’s going to be a good year just because of the numbers aspect.  It makes it a whole lot easy to just play and have more fun with it instead of constantly worrying about if we were going to have enough players to play.”

North Texas plays in the Texas Collegiate Hockey Conference, which consists of eight teams throughout the state of Texas.  This season the team will travel as far as Shreveport, Louisiana, where they will face-off against East Texas Baptist.

While the team does receive some funding from the school, a large majority of the expenses come directly from the players themselves. The team welcomes donations from outsiders to aid in relieving the financial stresses that come with playing college hockey.

“Player dues is what turns away a lot of players,” said Sammy Zeiders, president and senior defenseman. “We’ll have guys ready to play until they hear what it costs.”

In the past, UNT hockey has had issues with managing the program and has been placed on a number of probationary periods for reasons varying from paperwork negligence to lack of communication with the league.  The team’s current student leadership aims to stop that trend and lay the ground work for a program that is not only successful on the ice, but off the ice as well.

“We’re making sure what happened in previous years doesn’t happen again,” Zeiders said.  “We are going to transition better. Everything we’re having to figure out on our own, we’re going to have a step-by-step list for whoever takes over after us.”

The club leadership is optimistic that the commitment to the off-ice responsibilities will correlate with success on the ice both this year and keep players wanting to play for years to come.

“A lot of players didn’t want to play because of how it was put together last year,” Ely said.  “It’s been such a change.  We’re in good standing with the league and university right now so everyone is happy.  It makes our lives a lot easier and the other players lives a lot easier.”

Despite the team’s on and off ice struggles last season, the veteran players don’t see it as a failure and have an optimistic perspective as they approach a new season.

“Last year, eight to nine guys, you’ve got to play with the hand you’re dealt,” Zeiders said.  “Everyone just went out there to have fun, they went out there to play the game they love to play.  That created an environment in the locker room that built a foundation for what we have this year.”

Out of the eight teams that make up the conference, six of them will make the playoff tournament. UNT is setting out to aim high and make a bounce-back splash in the post season.

“We want to win it all,” Deacon said.  “We’re excited to get it going. I’m confident in us this year.”

Featured Image: Junior forward Chase Deacon takes possession of the puck during a scrimmage in the first practice of the year. Deacon lead the team as the highest goal scorer in the previous season. Image by Grace Davis

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Ryan Lochhead

Ryan Lochhead


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